An Islamist insurgent group in Somalia has issued a ban on all videogames, saying they are destroying the country’s “social traditions.”
Let me begin by saying that yes, this is true: An armed Islamic extremist group in Somalia has banned videogames because of the harm they cause to the country’s youth. “Starting two days after this statement’s date of issue, all video game playing centres in the areas under Hezb al-Islam control should be closed and playing video games will be prohibited,” the Hezb al-Islam group said in a statement signed by Sheikh Mohamed Omar, the head of propaganda. “Videogames are designed in such a way that they destroy our social traditions and for that reason, anybody found ignoring this order will be punished and equipment will be confiscated.”
An AFP report says videogames are especially popular in Somalia because things like television, films, music and sports have already been banned, leaving the country’s citizens, particularly its young, with little to do. Prior to the decree, people would gather in small, makeshift cyber-cafes and arcades, spending 5000 Somali shillings – about 15 cents – for a 30-minute session on a PlayStation.
“We used to watch movies. They were banned. Now the PlayStations we had fun with are also banned,” said 19-year-old Abdirahman Hirsi. “This country is not for young people like me.”
What sort of punishment awaits those hardcore enough to defy the ban wasn’t made clear, but in some parts of the country men are arrested for trimming their beards, while people caught dancing to traditional music are flogged. Potentially worse, however, is that this latest ban could help to drive yet more children into the ranks of the country’s various fighting groups. Human rights organizations have accused all sides of recruiting child soldiers since the country fell into civil war almost 20 years ago.
“Who knows what else the children are going to do now,” said Abdi Moge, an “older resident” of the village of Lafole. “It’s not as if there was proper education for them. The more they are prevented from playing, the more likely they are to join the fighting.”